Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How I Learned To Deal with Toddler Meltdowns and Tantrums!

I'm so totally addicted to SocialMoms,  If you haven't signed up with them yet, you absolutely have to!  You get to meet up with some real  "Super Star Bloggers" and some awesome information to help you if you are a blogger just starting out!!!!  I was over there today and this question was posted which got my brain pumping: 
" Do you have advice for handling stress when your children throw a temper tantrum in public or around friends?"
God did this question hit a nerve with me!!  It brought me back to reality and made me realize how much I had to learn to become the, tantrum meltdown solving mom,  that I am today!  

It wasn't easy, and I didn't figure it out myself!   It took a LOT of time and practice, but I was lucky to have help and guidance from some the best Early Intervention therapists out there! (Thank you Kirsty, Cathy, Margot, and Judy, YOU are the best!!) and our fantastic group of pediatricians that we found at Advocare Atrium Pediatrics (Best Pediatric doctors that I've found!!  Simply AMAZING w/special needs kids!!!)
I learned early on, that when a when a child is having a tantrum, its not because they are bad!!  A child is not born with the ability to express what is going on inside their bodies or minds!  This is something that is taught or learned!  Most kids who have tantrums are unable to communicate or tell you what's wrong because they don't know themselves most times!  It is our jobs as parents to HELP them figure it out! 

Lucas didn't just have tantrums!  He had level 10 meltdowns that would leave me sitting on the floor in tears just crying!    There were times when we had to rush him to the hospital after a meltdown to make sure he didn't break his skull from smashing it so hard against a wall or floor!

He couldn't hear or communicate until he was 18 months old so we had a long way to go with trying to get him to sign to us or express what was bothering him.   

As an adult have you ever had one of those days where you didn't know what was bothering you but you were in a bad mood all day?  Then someone made the horrible mistake of crossing your path the wrong way and you released the wrath of God onto them?   That's what it's like for kids!!  They don't know what's wrong either and the only way that they know how to tell you is by crying or acting out because they are frustrated that YOU DON'T KNOW either! 

I am NOT one of those mothers that believe or agree with picking up and leaving a store because a child is having a meltdown!!  The problem is not being solved with running away from the store!!  You have to remember every single parent out there has had a child who had a tantrum or meltdown at some point!  If they tell you they didn't, they're lying!!!

I don't believe in,  "if you ignore them it will stop, either", I was in the store once and saw a mother using the "IGNORE them method", thinking the child would get over it, eventually,  and the kid was in the cart with blood pouring down his arm!!  He cut himself on the cart and was trying to tell the mom that something was wrong and she didn't stop shopping for two seconds to see that the kid was really hurt! 

For my survival, I learned early on, not to care what other parents thought about my parenting skills or my child's behavior! 

As soon as you see the meltdown start, you have to tune everyone and everything out!  STOP looking at the can of peas that you need to buy for dinner and focus on the scream in front of you!!!  You need to think back to when you were using the rhythm breathing to get your infant to go to sleep!  You are going to need that for both of you!  A child can sense your tension!  If you are rhythm breathing or trying to they can't sense that tension!! 

Once you do this a calmness sets over you and you can focus on them and attacking the question, "OK, what's going on that's making him/her react this way?"   You need to stay calm, quiet, and be determined.  You have to find your own way of getting that ONE second of calm, so that they can see that YOU are focused on them and they will react with you!!  

With Lucas, I would stop everything that I was doing, even if I had to sit on the floor in the store with him I would!!  Eye to Eye,  I would say something like "Oh my goodness, what happened?"  Lucas is crying! What happened to Lucas? Say their name!!! Something about their name being spoken snaps them out of it for a second!  Lucas, can you show mommy what's wrong?!  Can you help Mommy find out what's wrong with Lucas?!   I would go through his whole body head to toe, Is it your head?  Is it your ears?  At this point he would calm down enough so that I could get hints from his gestures, what could possibly be bothering him!  

For this particular instance, he was able to finally tug at his shoes, and gesture that he wanted them off!!  I was able to see that the meltdown was caused because he had a string that was sticking out and was caught in between his toe!!  To him it felt like someone was stabbing him.  The point is, he wasn't being bad, something was WRONG with him and he couldn't express what was sending him off the deep end!!  As an adult having a string stuck in between my toe would send me off the deep end too if I couldn't get it out or express that it was bothering me!!

Seeing meltdowns in a different light made me deal with the situation more rationally and calmer.  When he was in the midst of a meltdown or tantrum, I made it MY job as his mother, to step in and try somehow to communicate with him and find out what was really wrong! (It's hard when they are throwing their body around but it can be done!) 

There are adults that I know who still have tantrums and act like Lucas and I treat them the same exact way! It's amazing how much different you feel when you see it that way.

This isn't going to work every single time, but as a special needs parent I can tell you this approach has helped me immensely and I can't even tell you how much it helped Lucas LEARN to communicate which in turn reduced the meltdowns!! 

Also, another trick that worked for me,  was our first stop into any store that we go into is to the toy section.  Lucas is allowed to pick out one toy that he wants to play with while we shop!  Mom's get real, it's boring for a kid to go shopping!!  You have to give them something to do to make it fun!  I always take his favorite Dum-Dum pops with us and when we check out, I whisper to the cashier to hide it and they are completely understanding about it!   

I tell my husband all the time, "You need to pick your battles, when it comes to parenting!"   It's not hurting anyone letting him play with a toy that will occupy him while I have to do errands! Gosh, I feel like throwing myself down on the floor and crying sometimes when I have to run errands! LOL

I just wanted to share what helped me with Lucas and his meltdowns with you!   I'm not going to promise that it will help everyone, or anyone for that matter, but it did work for me and felt it was worth sharing with you!

2 Responses to "How I Learned To Deal with Toddler Meltdowns and Tantrums!"

Jenelle Says :
August 3, 2011 at 7:59 PM

This post is sooo true. I just wrote a post on "lessons learned as a parent" I completely agree that we HAVE to pick our battles as parents and that we have to also figure out what will work with meltdowns and tantrums. All kids are different and the manner in which we handle any situation will vary! Great post!!

Joey Fortman Says :
August 9, 2011 at 4:14 PM

So super great to find you Debbie!!! I haven't had th chance to really hit up on other Philly blogger sites and you were the first. What a breath of fresh air!! Can't wait to see you an your family at Clementon Park!

Joey Fortman

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